Paul Brooks, former Magnum global vice president, has been promoted to president/CEO for Hi-Tec Sports USA. Brooks joined Hi-Tec in 1994 as head of European sales and relocated to the United States in 1997 to take on management of global product and marketing for the company. "We really want to step up our pace in bringing out new product that is more market-right than ever before," he told SNEWS®. "We want to force our way upward. We want to be shoulder-to-shoulder with the Merrells and Timberlands."
That doesn't mean Hi-Tec wants to lose its focus on the demographic and price point it has specialized in, but he said the company will look toward a "livelier line" with more "contemporary stylings" -- without ignoring its current customers' needs -- that the consumer will begin to see hints of in the Fall '03 product, with a full introduction for the Spring '04 line. In particular, he said Hi-Tec would go after the light hiking category in the price ranges of $40-$80 retail.
He also said the company will spend more time getting improved feedback from its customers, both consumers and retailers, with such things as more focus groups. This will be spearheaded by the addition of two positions, filled from within the halls of Hi-Tec: Darin Jesberg, former Magnum marketing and business development manager, has been promoted to Magnum category Director (Brooks' former position), and John Van Parks, previously a Hi-Tec sales representative for the Peters-Fate Agency, has been hired as Hi-Tec Outdoor category director. Brooks also told SNEWS® there would be a new culture in the company that is more "team-oriented," shown immediately by the promotion from within of the current management changes. Other changes: Both Brooks and COO Bob Kaiser will report to new Hi-Tec Sports Group CEO Martin Binnendijk, who officially joined the company Sept. 1. Jeff Bua, senior vice president of sales and marketing, is no longer with the company. Scott Chantos, former Western Division sales director, has been promoted to vice president of sales. Chris Cohen remains Eastern Division Sales Director. The company is searching for a new Western Division sales director and a new marketing director. Said Brooks: "We're ready for the challenges ahead."
SNEWS® View: Hi-Tec has done incredible things in the past few years, started by Jon Caplan and Jeff Bua. Now, all the ducks are in a row, and it seems the time is right for the company to do as Brooks says it will: Leave the purely conservative image behind and update its look to keep its loyal customers, as well as attract a younger crowd. With the price points it adheres to, that shouldn't be a problem, and the current team and direction looks to be the one for the job.